…besides visiting the Atomic Bomb Memorial Park and Museum, that is. But let’s skip the obvious and focus on a couple of less familiar sights and experiences that Hiroshima offers.
See Mazda cars roll off the production line
Even if you are not a huge car buff the Mazda museum is worth a visit. It is part of the original factory, which dates back to 1920. If nothing else, the sheer size of the plant complex is awe-inspiring. It stretches over 7 km southeast of the city and even includes its private port!
I don’t remember any specific car models on display (obviously, they were all Mazda or its predecessor Toyo Kogyo). Yet, I could have stayed at the observation deck of the assembly line for hours. Seeing Japanese precision in action was the absolute highlight of the tour for me.
To visit the museum, you need to plan in advance and book a spot at one of the guided tours which are free of charge. If you are arriving by taxi, make sure the driver takes you to the headquarters and not to the museum as shown in Google Maps.
We learned this lesson the hard way – by ending up at the wrong end of the huge complex. This resulted in a bit of confusion at the gate when we tried to explain where we were headed. In the end, a friendly driver picked us up in a limo and brought us straight to the museum while the rest of the group was bused in from the main entrance. I call that arriving in style.
Climb to the top of Hiroshima Castle
Not by far as large as Osaka Castle nor as impressive as Himeji, Hiroshima Castle is still a sight to behold. The building was completely rebuilt after WWII and merits a visit for this fact alone. It somehow made me more aware of the terrible Hiroshima past than anything else in the whole city. Plus the view from the top is really nice. It makes you contemplate the whole nonsense of wars some more.
Try the Hiroshima okonomiyaki
This traditional Japanese pancake with shredded cabbage is one of my favourite Japanese dishes. The Hiroshima version, an absolute must-try dish when in town, is made with noodles and supposedly dates back to the post-war period when the city was rebuilding itself.
Many city guides recommend the multi-storey Okonomimura restaurant as the place to get your okonomiyaki fix. Given the high quality of Japanese restaurants, any other place might be just as good. We had ours in a tiny teppanyaki place across from our hotel, where we planned to stop only for a drink and a small bite.
The “bite” turned out to be two okonomiyaki pancakes which were so good that we were determined to come back the next evening. And we did, only to find the place full. We had no other choice but to … 👇 👇 👇
… accidentally stumble into a Michelin-starred restaurant for dinner
Not being able to get a seat at the restaurant of your choice might be a minor tragedy anywhere else but in Japan. In a country with such an abundance of delicious food, you simply go to the next available place.
I’ve noticed this unassumingly looking restaurant during the day in a shopping arcade not far from our hotel. So, when we got turned down at the teppanyaki place, we knew where to head to next. A small mom-and-pop place with only a dozen counter seats seemed perfect for yet another small bite.
The owners didn’t speak any English, but we knew the magic foodie word “omakase”. Soon the whole line-up of tiny plates started to appear in front of us, each one dish tastier than the last.
Finally, one of the guests asked us how the hell we found out about the place. At first, we didn’t understand the question. Sure, the food was great, but what was so special about this place? Imagine our surprise when they told us that we were dining in a Michelin starred restaurant!
Luckily, we got some heads-up about the bill that was about to come our way, no matter how late. In the end, the total cost of the dinner, even though higher than originally planned, didn’t break the bank. In fact, compared to restaurants of similar rating in Europe it was a rather good value. So, all in all, it was a worthwhile experience. Plus, a story to remember.
Go for a stroll
Another reason I liked Hiroshima so much is that it is such a walkable city. You can cover the whole area between Hiroshima Station, Hiroshima Castle and the Peace Park on foot.
Be sure to stop at the pretty Shukkeien Garden not far from Hiroshima Station. And if you’re in town at the time of cherry blossom, you won’t be able to miss all the cherry trees stretching far into the distance along the Ota River.
These were just a couple of the highlights of our three days in Hiroshima. Even though we barely scratched the surface, we have seen enough to fall in love with the city. It might charm you too if you give it a chance and stay a while longer.